The Drug War At Home: Sharing Your Stories & Reactions

By Nick Blumberg
May 30, 2011

The Drug War At Home

This is one installment in a 13-part series of multimedia stories by Fronteras: The Changing America Desk that investigates our role in the illegal narcotics trade.

Photo by Nick Blumberg.
A woman concerned her pot use funds violent Mexican cartels works in her garden in Arizona. She asked not to be identified. Photo by Nick Blumberg
A woman who smoked marijuana when she was a teenager has returned to the drug now that she is middle aged. After being diagnosed with breast cancer five and a half years ago, it is the only thing she has found that helps her cope with the side effects of chemotherapy.

She has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“That was in the 70s and things with drugs were a lot different. I inhaled. After I started my professional career, I stopped,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “The chemo that I ended up having to have, between all of them, took 18 months. And most of it was on a weekly basis.”

She was reintroduced to pot by friends who said it would help with the side effects. That allowed her to wean herself off of nine different prescription drugs a day. She has used about half an ounce in six months. But she feels guilt over the possibility she might be contributing to a violent Mexican drug cartel.

“Whenever I hear about the violence, people getting killed, I cringe,” said the woman, who went to high school and college in Tucson. “It bothers me when people are killed just driving through the streets. It’s horrible.”

She’s also troubled because she has relatives in law enforcement and hates the thought that she could be funding a drug conflict that puts them in harm’s way. In her eyes, unless she is growing the marijuana herself, she’s worried that she’s contributing to the problem.

“I do believe that everything that we do in our lives impacts somebody else,” the woman said. “It is our duty. It is our responsibility to be as careful with those actions as possible.”

This sentiment was prevalent in many comments that the KPBS Fronteras Desk received on Twitter, Facebook and on our website to the series “The Drug War At Home.”

Reviewing the reaction to the stories, many agreed that drug users in the United States help fund the cartels. But others described themselves as conscious users who only consume drugs that are “Made in the U.S.A.”

Others pointed out that the United States was at least partially responsible for arming the Mexican cartels. They wondered why the federal government could not cut off the weapons supply chain.

And of course, whenever the discussion turns to illegal drugs, people called for them to be legalized.

The most common observation was about how the drug war has impacted visits to Mexico. Some people, who frequented the country because of their proximity to the border, have stopped going because of the violence. Others still travel, but worry like they never worried before about becoming a victim.

Dylan Mann, of San Diego, used to be a care free border traveler who has now become concerned for his safety in Mexico. He crosses the border at least once-a-month as part of a program to teach English to students in Tijuana.

“There was just a speck of doubt in the back of my mind that even though every time I’ve gone down there I’ve felt pretty safe, you know, it only takes once,” Mann said.

Photo courtesy Tijuana Youth Scholars Lab.
Students in Tijuana learn English from American volunteers.

He has not witnessed any of the cartel violence that has recently plagued Tijuana. But a warning issued by the U.S. Department of State last fall made him pause. He stopped going for about three months.

Now, he and his group have returned, but they are more careful.

“We’ve done some things to protect ourselves,” Mann said. “But I’d rather not comment on what those are.”

Mann and the woman are part of the Public Insight Network, a new initiative to expand the reporting resources of newsrooms in the Fronteras Desk network. We encourage you to join as we are looking for as many distinct voices as possible. Click here to find out more.